Rangers at Blue Jackets.
It really is Go Time, as in, better get going. As in, now or never.
There is no such thing as a Must Win game with 11 left and so little room among the teams in the playoff race. But this is about as close as it gets, with a four-point swing (assuming there are no Bettman Losers’ Points handed out) in the equation.
The Rangers and Blue Jackets are tied for third in the Lesstropolitan at 78 points. The Rangers have the tiebreaker (regulation/OT wins) by two. Columbus has one game in hand, having beaten the Habs in Montreal last night while the Rangers were relaxing in Columbus.
Both teams trail second-place Philly by three, and the Flyers have the tiebreaker on both and a game in hand on the Rangers. (Philly visits the Garden Wednesday, after the Rangers play the Devils Saturday and Phoenix Monday).
Obviously finishing in the top three in the division is critical in that 2-3 will play in the first round of the playoffs, while the Lesstropolitan wild card gets a visit to Boston for a first-round pounding.
Rick Nash makes his first return to Columbus since the July, 2012 blockbuster that sent him to the Rangers. Of course you know the rest of the cast of former Blue Jackets and former Rangers (notably Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov) in tonight’s game. I suspect a lot of them, Nash included, to be especially fired up.
Derek Dorsett, a former Jacket, is apparently playing in a late lineup change, which means Daniel Carcillo would be prucha’d along with Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz and Ryan Haggerty as Alain Vigneault goes with the same lineup otherwise. Benoit Pouliot rejoined the team in Columbus after the birth of his daughter Thursday. Henrik Lundqvist starts in goal against Sergei Bobrovsky.
Other games that matter tonight: Carolina at Chicago (as if), Boston at Colorado (B’s can clinch a playoff berth).
Games that matter tomorrow: St. Louis at Philadelphia (1 p.m.), Tampa Bay at Pitt (1 p.m.), Ottawa at Dallas (3 p.m.), Montreal at Toronto (7), Rangers at Devils (7), Carolina at Winnipeg (7, as if), Washington at San Jose (10:30).
Don’t forget to vote for the Three Rangers Stars in the poll on the left.